Thursday, December 8, 2011

Providing context for Anne Frank

I was careening through a Barnes and Noble store recently on a mission for something else when the image of Anne Frank on the cover of a book almost caused me to give myself a case of whiplash. I executed an abrupt U-turn and went back to the display table to take a look. The book that attracted my attention and made its way into my shopping bag that day was Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography. Sid Jacobson is the author of the text and Ernie Colón created the graphics. This 149 page book reads like a graphic novel and appeals to middle and high school students – especially those who are reluctant readers.

The biography is divided into ten chapters that tell the familiar story of Anne, her family, and the other residents of the Secret Annex. However, there are many details in the book that I did not know. For example the first chapter tells the history of Otto Frank’s and Edith Holländer’s families; I learned that Otto Frank worked at Macy’s department store in New York City for a couple of years before WWI. The ninth chapter tells how the residents of the Secret Annex were arrested and what happened to them following their arrests. I learned that Otto tried to convince Peter Van Pels to hide with him in the infirmary at Auschwitz; however, Peter decided to evacuate the camp as the Russians drew close in January 1945. The tenth chapter tells about Otto’s life after the war, the publication of Anne’s diary, and the creation of The Anne Frank House.

Throughout the book, the creators have provided background information to help the reader understand Anne’s story in the larger context of WWII and the Holocaust. The second chapter is devoted to explaining the rise of Nazi party in Germany. Maps are provided in several places. There are pages titled “Snapshot” that illuminate in text and graphics concepts such as Germany in World War I, the Nuremberg Laws, Concentration Camps, the Wannsee Conference, and the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. There are smaller frames tucked throughout the book that give background information about other important events such as Germany’s acquisition of territory without war between 1935 and 1938, Kristallnacht, Operation Barbarossa and the Einsatzgruppen, and the evacuation of the Danish Jews. The last pages of the book feature a chronology and a list of print and web resources for further reading.

This book would be an excellent addition to school libraries and to the personal libraries of educators who teach about Anne Frank.

Jacobson, Sid and Ernie Colón. Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography. New York: Hill and Wang, 2010.

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